It is with great sadness that I write about the passing of Patrick E. Martin, a long-standing friend of the Department of English and a supporter of our numerous research and outreach activities. Patrick Martin was a patron of the arts, not simply through the provision of funds for programming, scholarship, and artistic endeavor, but through his passionate engagement with the works themselves, such as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Samuel Beckett’s drama, and Irish and global cinema. Patrick had a far-reaching holistic vision of the interdisciplinary and intersectional spirit of the humanities and tirelessly built bridges between academia and the public. He had a very open mind and was enthusiastic about new ideas, which truly resonated with the Buffalo community.
Those of us who attended Patrick Martin’s memorial service at St. Joseph University Church and the follow-up reception celebrating his life at the Twentieth Century Club in Buffalo, with toasts of Pat’s favorite whiskey for each of us who spoke, were astounded by how versatile and talented he was: a successful athlete at Duke University, a noted attorney who served as general counsel for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, director of Cinegael Buffalo and founder of riverrun, which takes its name from the first word, uncapitalized, of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Pat was also a UB English alumnus, having studied with Twain scholars Leslie Fiedler and Victor Doyno, earning a master’s degree before taking his JD in the UB Law School in 1985. That rare combination of talents contributed to Pat’s critical role in negotiating for the Buffalo and Erie County Library for the return to Buffalo of the first half of the manuscript of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which had gone missing for more than a century. Reunited with its other half in the Mark Twain Room at the Central Library, this kernel of all American literature is ours to view thanks in part to Pat’s efforts.
Along with his good friend Laurence Shine at Buffalo State College, Pat was a regular at the Finnegans Wake Reading Group and a supporter of the Bloomsday (on which Joyce’s Ulysses is set) celebrations every June 16. In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, he co-directed with alumna Stacey Herbert the documentary film, Following James Joyce, Dublin to Buffalo (2004), which was featured in the programming for Cinegael Buffalo: Irish Writers in Film. As a result of Pat’s commitment to scholarship, especially in, but not limited to, the fabled James Joyce Collection in Buffalo’s Poetry/Rare Books Collection, the riverrun Foundation created the riverrun Research Fellowships for MA and Ph.D. students to support travel to research repositories, archives, and special collections beyond Western New York. Overseen by the English Department’s Director of Graduate Studies Professor Damien Keane, these presentations take place at various public venues in the city of Buffalo. In addition, Patrick Martin contributed generously to the support of the annual Robert Creeley Lecture in Poetry and Poetics (coordinated by SUNY Distinguished Professor Cristanne Miller) and the UB Humanities Institute’s events.
The most recent project Patrick Martin supported in the Department of English was the riverrun Global Film Series, which I curate. This global initiative was linked to new supporting structures in the Department of English, such as the Center for Global Film and the Global Film Minor launched in 2017. From 2016 to 2018 the Global Film Series, held at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, has offered an authentic, rich cultural and cinematic experience to UB faculty and students and the Buffalo community at large. In addition to keynote speakers and other local community experts, a great number of UB faculty and staff have participated in the film series during the past three years: SUNY Distinguished Professor and Edward H. Butler Chair Cristanne Miller (who helped to found the film series), SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Chair Bruce Jackson (who participated in all three years of the series), Professor William Solomon, Dr. Ana Grujic, Ms. Jennifer Elinge (English); Associate Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education, and the Director of the UB Honors College Dalia Antonia Muller (History), Assistant Professor Abigail Cooke (Geography), and Professors in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures Jorge Guitart, Elizabeth Scarlett, and Margarita Vargas. A number of the English Department’s Ph.D. and MA students have also benefitted from the generous support of riverrun in their work on the series, including: Jake Sanders, Brent Cox, Jocelyn Marshall, Ajitpaul Mangat, Rebekah White, and Daniel Perlino. Before he passed, Patrick Martin generously set up a fund to support the film series again in the future. The riverrun Global Film Series will be returning next year with a new installment dedicated to Patrick’s memory. Let Patrick Martin’s vision of the arts and large-heartedness shine on and inspire others.
Department of English